The low residue diet is not meant to help you lose weight. Instead, it's supposed to help heal your gut.
The word "residue" here refers to the undigested food that makes up the bulk of stool. Therefore, the goal of a low-residue diet is to reduce the size and frequency of your bowel movements.
Doctors often prescribe a low residue diet for people with digestive problems like inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), Crohn's disease, and colitis. But recent research calls into question whether this approach actually helps. Here's what you need to know about low residue diets.
Low residue foods are usually thoroughly cooked so that they break down easily in your body. Here is a list of do's and don'ts for the low residue diet according to the University of Michigan's Bowel Control Program.
And depending on your specific needs you may also be able to eat:
Don't see a food here you're wondering about? For a more comprehensive list, visit the University of Michigan Health System's guide.
On a low residue diet, you're recommended to eat no more than 10 to 15 grams of fiber per day. For comparison, health recommendations call for 25 to 38 grams of fiber each day.
Because of the low fiber intake, people often use low residue diet and low fiber diet interchangeably. But they're not synonymous.
Low fiber diets focus only on cutting out high fiber foods. Whereas low residue diets aim to reduce fiber and also cut down on anything that can increase your bowel movements, which, for some people, can include low-fiber foods like meat and dairy.
Regardless, both low residue and low fiber diets are meant to put the least amount of strain possible on your digestive tract. The foods you eat on either diet, like white rice, cooked vegetables, and fish, should move slowly through your digestive tract. And this slower movement usually means less waste, fewer bowel movements, and reduced cramping, bloating, and gas.
The low residue diet is a short-term plan to give your digestive system a break from breaking down hard-to-digest foods, says Lori Welstead, a dietician who works in gastroenterology at the University of Chicago Medical Center. "It is not recommended to be lifelong in most cases."
The Mayo Clinic recommends following the low fiber diet only as long as you are having symptoms like diarrhea. Once your symptoms have improved, you can start slowly reintroducing fiber into your diet.
However, research is divided on whether a low fiber diet is truly helpful for all types of inflammatory conditions.
For example, a study published in Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology in 2016, found that among patients in remission, avoiding fiber was linked to an increased risk of flare-ups for people with Crohn's disease.
In addition, a review of 23 studies, published in Inflammatory Bowel Disease in 2014, found that overall, there is no evidence to support restricting fiber when treating IBD. And other studies have found similar results, suggesting that diets that cut out specific foods like gluten or legumes worked better for IBD than a low-fiber diet.
If you've ever had a colonoscopy and dreaded the preparation, the low-residue diet might help abate some discomfort. Traditionally, patients who are going in for a GI procedure are told that they must stick to a clear liquid diet the day before.
But a number of studies have shown that a low-residue diet may be just as effective at colon preparation while vastly improving patient satisfaction. If you're going in for a GI procedure, ask your doctor if you can swap water and broth for more filling, low-residue options.
The low residue diet is not the only diet out there that can help with gastrointestinal symptoms. The following other diets can be used to help control diarrhea in the short term, but none of them are long-term solutions.
Welstead warns that sticking to a restrictive diet like the low residue diet can cause deficiencies in vitamin or protein levels. "For most patients, they are able to transition to a normal diet over time," Welstead adds.
That's why you should speak with a registered dietitian before starting any of these diets, including the low residue diet.
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What is a low residue diet and what you can eat on it - Insider - INSIDER